Thursday, May 31, 2007

Document the Atrocities

This has been an exceedingly strange and difficult offseason for the LSU football team. There have certainly been some bright spots since the Sugar Bowl, most notably the 4 Tigers drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and the signing of a class that many believe may be the best ever at LSU. But other than that, we have dealt with a series of unfortunate or otherwise difficult circumstances.
  • The hiring of former LSU coach Nick Saban by one of our biggest rivals, and the subsequent media storm. Technically, the hiring was announced on the day of the Sugar Bowl, so it wasn't strictly an offseason story, but much of the aftermath occurred in the offseason.
  • While we signed a great recruiting class, the story was soured by the Joe McKnight and Luther Davis situations. To recap, Luther Davis committed to LSU, and then secretly took a visit to the University of Alabama and constructed an elaborate web of lies in an attempt to cover it up. Depending on who you believe, we either pulled his scholarship offer or he decided to de-commit and go to Bama. Joe McKnight, arguably the top prospect in the entire country and a Louisiana kid, decided to go to USC rather than LSU, and there was a big stink.
  • Ryan Perrilloux's counterfeiting saga, wherein he was investigated by the Feds for suspected involvement in a counterfeiting ring. He has not been charged and it is believed he may have been cleared of wrongdoing.
  • Kyle Anderson allegedly attacked a man outside of a bar, putting him in the hospital. Anderson, a backup OL, was kicked off the team permanently.
  • Zhamal Thomas and Troy Giddens, backup OL and DB respectively, allegedly broke into an apartment, stole some stuff, and tried to use a stolen credit card. They were kicked off the team permanently.
  • Ryan Perilloux allegedly tried to enter a casino underage using someone else's ID. Because of this and other transgressions, he was suspended from the team indefinitely, and his fate is not decided.
  • LSU's live tiger mascot, Mike V, dies unexpectedly following surgery.
  • Former LSU defensive end and a key member of the 2003 national championship team Marquise Hill died in a recreational accident on Lake Pontchartrain. Reports are that he died saving another person from drowning.
You could say that we're waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it already has. Several times. And we're not done yet. Next week, the Major League Baseball draft takes place, and we will find out more about whether we will likely lose star recruit Chad Jones, one of the jewels of this great recruiting class. He has said he will go play baseball if the money is right.

Let's hope all this is just prologue to a great season.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dr. Katz Wednesday

Alright, so I like animation. Always have. I also like really offbeat and dry humor. Therefore, I was a big fan of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, a show that came on Comedy Central about 10-12 years ago. It was a show about a guy who was living with his grown son, who was not quite ready to take on life yet. He was a therapist to famous stand-up comics. Here are some clips:

Dr. Katz with Jon Stewart

Dr. Katz's Receptionist

Dr. Katz's son Ben is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, who went on to voice Coach McGuirk in Home Movies, another wildly inventive and funny show. Dr. Katz's receptionist is voiced by Sarah Silverman's sister Laura Silverman.

The strange animation technique is called "Squigglevision", and it was invented by the guy who developed Dr. Katz into a show. It was later used in the Saturday morning show Science Court and Home Movies.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Accountability and Precedent

This doesn't seem like a particularly appropriate topic to bring up on Memorial Day, but darnit, it's what's on my mind right now. As most of you know, Ryan Perrilloux has been suspended from the football team over a misdemeanor charge of using another person's ID to get entry to a casino and is currently awaiting word on his LSU fate. Right now, the handwriting appears to be on the wall that Perrilloux will be allowed to remain on the team subject to some kind of suspension or other punishment.

This has some commenters upset. They think Miles either should banish Perrilloux permanently, or has to do so for some reason. The arguments seem to come in three flavors:
  1. Ryan Perrilloux is a cancer who will forever be more trouble than he is worth.
  2. Ryan Perrilloux must be expelled in order to express "accountability."
  3. Ryan Perrilloux must be expelled because Les Miles has set the precedent with Zhamal Thomas, Troy Giddens, and Kyle Anderson. Failure to follow this precedent will show that more important athletes get favorable treatment, which will hurt Miles' credibility.
I don't really have anything to say about Argument #1, except to say that I don't know what Perrilloux is like personally, and I doubt the people who are making this argument know either. It's the 2nd and 3rd arguments that I have a real problem with and need to dispel.

It is not necessary to expel Ryan Perrilloux in order to achieve "accountability". This term is greatly misused in society, and not just in regards to athletics. As an attorney, I represent a good number of criminal defendants, and it's an argument that I see everywhere, always abused and always misused.

"Accountability" for wrongdoings means a) acknowledging the wrongdoing, b) making right on damage done, and c) facing appropriate additional consequences. It does not mean "facing the most oppressive punishment our consciences can stomach". People routinely get these confused. People say, "We must give him 20 years in prison, or there will be no accountability," as if 15 years in prison would be utterly lacking in accountability for whatever crime has been committed.

The key word in my three-pronged definition of accountability is "appropriate". When this is bastardized in to "barely conscionable", you get the kind of absurd results that make people say, "Ryan Perrilloux must be kicked off the team permanently for trying to illegally access a casino, otherwise he is just walking all over us." Would, say, a 2 game suspension not punish Perrilloux in any way? Will his criminal punishments not affect him in any way? Mere slaps on the wrist! No, Mr. Perrilloux's life must be permanently impacted in ways that may affect his future livelihood. Otherwise, how will he learn? How will our children learn?

Absurd, I say.

Now for Argument #3, which says that Miles set a precedent in expelling Thomas, Giddens, and Anderson from the team, and now must follow it by doing the same with Perrilloux. Honestly, this argument is so devoid of good reasoning that it is a wonder anyone has to bother to refute it. As an initial matter, it assumes that all athletes should be treated similarly under similar circumstances, an assumption I question.

But more importantly, precedent only holds under similar circumstances, and Ryan Perrilloux's situation is not remotely similar to the Giddens/Thomas/Anderson situations. It's not even close.

In the cases of Thomas and Giddens, they committed a serious property crime whereby they broke into a house, committed theft, and used someone else's credit crime. These are felony crimes with concrete, identifiable victims. Anderson allegedly laid in wait for someone before attacking him and putting him in the hospital. A violent crime with a concrete, identifiable victim.

Ryan Perrilloux, by contrast, allegedly used his brother's ID to enter a casino illegally. While I don't question the legitimacy of this as a crime, it is a crime a lot like drug use or underage drinking in that the victim and the perpetrator are the same person. It is a law designed to protect the Ryan Perrilloux's from themselves. It has no concrete, identifiable victim. Everyone is a victim and no one is a victim.

This is so plainly obvious that I wonder why anyone even brings up the prior "precedent" as such. Perhaps it's just a symptom of the growing sentiment among some people that all crimes are roughly equal and all criminals deserve to be treated the same, as if there are no grades to wrongdoing whatsoever. Sorry, but a marijuana user is not as bad as a home invasion rapist, and Ryan Perrilloux's actions are not as bad as the actions of the other three. They need not, and should not, be treated as if they are similar.

Now, if the team gets together and decides that Perrilloux's misdeeds along with his past misdeeds mean that he should no longer be a part of the team, I am OK with that. It is not strictly necessary under any analysis of "accountability" and "precedent", however.

Marquis Hill

It appears that a former Tiger and a key member of the 2003 National Championship team may be gone. Marquis Hill has been missing in Lake Pontchartrain for some time now.

I didn't know the man at all. I only know about him that he was a very good defensive end for the Tigers, and that he was trying to jump start an NFL career in New England.

It appears from reports he may have died saving someone else's life. I don't know what else to say about this.

Update: His body has been found.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Exploit: to use selfishly for one's own ends

This is a post about the ethics of keeping a captive tiger. I have thought a lot about this topic over the last several years. I've gone back and forth on what I believe about the ethics of having a live tiger mascot. I may change my mind again in the future.

My current opinion on this subject is this: we are ethically in the clear for keeping a live tiger mascot, because we do not harm the tiger and the tiger seems to get significant benefits from the deal.

Be clear. I do not believe that it is always OK to keep live animal mascots. I think it depends on the animal and it depends on how you treat the animal. In our case, we keep a tiger. If we kept a buffalo, wolf, vulture, or Cornhusker as a mascot, the ethical considerations would be different.

I believe we're doing something OK for several reasons.
  • Tigers are generally solitary creatures in the wild, so it's not such a bad thing to keep a single tiger.
  • We do no deliberate harm to the tiger, other than put it through the stress of performing before a large audience 7 or 8 times per year.
  • The tiger benefits by getting world class veterinary care, to the point that I understand captive tigers live much longer than is typical in the wild.
  • Tigers in the wild are endangered, subject to significant poaching, and victims of loss of habitat.
  • Like a wild tiger, our tigers get the occasional opportunity to interact with other tigers, as LSU regularly breeds our tigers.
I realize there are down sides. For one thing, our tigers don't have the opportunity to roam the way a wild tiger will. There is also that whole man-in-tiger-suit-runs-up-and-taunts-him-several-times-per-year. While I suppose that isn't necessarily a really big deal, I don't think there's any argument in the world we're doing it for the benefit of the tiger. Hence, the title and opening segment of this thread. We exploit the tigers, though I agree that it is not in a particularly serious way, and the tiger is adequately compensated for it.

Ultimately, I think the bigger issue is the tiger's inability to roam like a wild tiger. However, I do not believe this is at all similar to caging a human being. I don't think tigers look for "personal fulfillment". I think tigers struggle to survive, and if they found an easy way to survive in the wild, would be quite "fulfilled" by it. Our system provides the tiger with that.

Keep in mind that some of these factors are very specific to a tiger. Personally, I think Colorado's buffalo is much more ethically troubling than a tiger. The buffalo is a herd animal, most comfortable in groups that is dozens large. To hold one is really inadequate. I'd think the same of a wolf or an elephant (which I don't think anyone has).

For what it's worth, I think this is a completely different issue from using animals in medical or product testing, which can be less troubling or more troubling, depending on the testing.

I understand PETA's position here. I just think they're wrong.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another Whimsical Thursday

I had to put off Whimsical Wednesday yesterday because of certain other pressing news. If bad stuff is going to go down, why does it have to go down on a Tuesday?

Anyway, one serious note to open. If you disagree with PETA's stance on LSU having a live tiger mascot, just say you disagree and say why. Saying something to the effect of "I'd like to get two tigers and feed the President of PETA to them" just makes you look like a jerk. Healthy debate is a good thing.

This week saw the end of one of my favorite television shows. Veronica Mars involuntarily ended its three year run, which started on UPN and ended on the CW, after the end of UPN. In case you don't know, Veronica Mars is a show about a teenage private detective. It's a lot smarter than it sounds. At its best, it was film noir set it high school. It took on issues of race, class, and privilege as intelligently as anything I'd ever seen on television. It also had mostly terrific acting, especially for a show that was put together with such a small budget.

It started with the death of violent death of Veronica's best friend Lily (seen only in flashbacks and dream sequences), which Veronica took upon herself to solve, though it brought her up against the very wealthy, the powerful, thee corrupt, and the violent. In a twist I've never seen in a network show, she also had to solve her own rape, which occurred before the first episode, when she was sophomore in high school.

Along the way, it set up stars Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring for future stardom. It resurrected the career of Harry Hamlin, and put Enrico Colantoni back to work. No character was perfect, but no one (except Harry Hamlin) was unambiguously evil. Good people sometimes did bad things for their own reasons, and bad people sometimes softened.

It lost a little steam after the first season. The second season's primary mystery was a less compelling, "Who put a bomb on the school bus?" story. The third season really ran out of gas, but the final episodes were great, harkening back to Lily's murder and bringing back seemingly forgotten issues of class and privilege. If the rest of the season had been that strong, there would probably be a 4th season.

Anyway, here's a YouTube video.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Slow News Day No More

After complaining yesterday about slow off-season news, the LSU football team went and did something about it. I guess they showed me. I should have remembered that in the off-season, no news is good news.

Backup QB Ryan Perilloux was cited for a misdemeanor yesterday and suspended from the team indefinitely. He apparently tried to enter a casino using another person's ID. He is underage. Les Miles responded by suspending him, with no word on what the terms of the suspension will ultimately be.

Taken in isolation, this incident is not particularly severe. It is, as they say, a victimless crime, unlike the burglaries and assaults that plagued the team earlier this Spring. The law that Mr. Perilloux allegedly broke is in place not to protect people from theft or violence, but to protect Mr. Perilloux and those like him from themselves.

I think, taken in isolation, a brief suspension is in order. As the backup QB, probably the worst suspension you can give him is to suspend him for games against rent-a-wins like Middle Tennessee State, where a backup QB is otherwise likely to get a lot of snaps. Suspending him for Virginia Tech wouldn't really hurt him because he'd only likely play in the event of an injury to Matt Flynn.

"Taken in isolation" is a key phrase here. There is some indication that Mr. Perilloux has not been a choir boy in his time at LSU, and in particular has acted childishly on numerous occasions, all handled in-house and kept out of the press, but all with adverse consequences to him.

I trust Les Miles to get this one right, but I hope he is keeping in mind my argument that it is not necessary or even desirable to treat all athletes and all incidents the same way. Ryan Perilloux is very important to this team. He is going to be the only scholarship backup QB on the team who has gone through a Spring Practice. He is the heir apparent to the starting job next season.

If Ryan Perilloux is not available next year, and Matt Flynn gets hurt, our QB will be either a true freshman or a walk-on. Our chances of winning the SEC will be very small, and our chances of winning the National Championship will be nil.

If Mr. Perilloux has been THAT bad of an actor that he really needs to go, I'm fine with that, and I won't ultimately question the decision. I will however be very worried about the state of affairs on the football team.

Here's hoping Matt Flynn stays healthy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mississippi State

With there being so little college football news to discuss right now, things are and will be a little slow here at GeauxTuscaloosa. I think to make a few column inches, I'll give a quick preview of our first opponent of the 2007 season: the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

We face them to open the season on a nationally televised Thursday night game. It is, I think, our first regular season Thursday game ever.

Bottom line? I don't expect Mississippi State to be very good, and I don't expect them to be able to seriously challenge us. Last year, Mississippi State started the season with probably the most inept offense I'd ever seen in the SEC. They didn't score a point in either of their first two games. They had a hard time with basic things like getting the right players on the field and getting the play called in time to avoid a delay of game penalty. It was honestly like watching a high school JV team.

Things definitely improved for the offense as the season went on, and the Bulldog defense was solid year-round, culminating in the Bulldogs beating Bama and playing Georgia and Kentucky (both bowl teams) close. The offense should benefit from its growing pains of last year, and we won't see that level of ineptitude this year, but it still is not very good..

Anthony Dixon is a solid running back, and he'll be the focus of the offense. The offensive line, so utterly inept at times last year, is one year older and more experienced, though still will be among the younger offensive lines in the conference. Quarterback Michael Henig did not have a good year in an injury-plagued season, completing under 50% of his passes and throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Tony Burks was their only real receiving threat last year, averaging an impressive 25 yards per reception on 35 receptions last year.

The problem Mississippi State has is that the growth of its offense will be countered by losses on defense. Mississippi State loses many of the best players. Quentin Culberson, who seemed to play every position and seemed to play there for 10 years finally ran out of eligibility and is attempting to ply his wares in the NFL. The front 4 also takes a hit with the loss of three starters including DT Antonio Johnson, MSU's only drafted player.

The best returning defensive player is CB Derek Pegues, but a team that loses so many of its best defensive players and hasn't really recruited very well recently will certainly feel a big sting.

I'm not saying they can't give us trouble. Sure they can. Anyone can. I'm saying that if we have any chance of competing for the SEC or the National Championship, then MSU is not a team that should give us trouble. I think if everything goes wrong for the Tigers, which means in essence that the passing game doesn't show up and the safeties fail, we should be able to run the ball on their inexperienced and undertalented front 7, and we should be able to menace their offense with our front 7. If MSU is in this game in the 4th quarter, it simply means that we are not as good as we thought.

On a related note, back in 2003 when Bama was deciding between hiring Mike Shula and hiring Sylvester Croom, I told everyone who would listen that Croom was the better choice. Shula had never been a head coach anywhere and had never coached college in any capacity. Croom, while never being head coach, had significant college coaching experience. He also seemed to have more of a head coach's personality. I thought Bama was hiring Shula more because his name was Shula and he was a former QB there than for any reason having to do with skill. I still think I'm right about that.

I was wrong, however, about Croom. Since his hire by MSU, they have really not gotten any better at all, and as mentioned, their offense last year was inept at levels that really aren't acceptable for a major college program. In the third year of your program, there is no excuse for not being able to do things like get the field goal unit on the field in time to run a play without a penalty. In his third year, they looked like a Division I-AA team at times, and in his second year, a Division I-AA team actually beat them.

I thought Croom would own the state of Mississippi in recruiting. He has not. Ole Miss clearly has the upper hand in recruiting despite trying to recruit mostly African-Americans against the only African-American coach in the conference, while having a mascot like Colonel Reb. MSU has every built-in advantage in recruiting in that state, and should be burying Ole Miss, but it appears to be the other way around, as Ole Miss continues to put together solid recruiting classes and MSU fills their rosters with JUCOs and 2-star recruits.

Honestly, I don't expect Croom to still be MSU's coach at this time next year.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Baseball: How Bad Was It?

Pittman said the team couldn’t hit. That does not begin to describe it. Let’s take a stroll through the numbers to find out exactly how terrible LSU’s offense was, because it really is kind of impressive. The levels of incompetence the Tiger offense achieved will not be matched any time in the near future.

The average SEC team posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of 299/385/450. That’s a good baseline for what an average SEC player should be able to produce. LSU, as a team, hit 256/331/379. That’s right, kids. LSU’s slugging percentage was lower than the average SEC team’s ON BASE PERCENTAGE. That’s not just terrible, that’s cover-your-eyes awful. But it gets worse.

LSU’s best hitter was Blake Dean, who hit 316/366/505. So he posted a slightly above average batting average, slightly below average OBP, and a pretty good slugging. If that’s your best player, you have problems. Once he got to SEC play, those numbers collapsed and he hit 270/323/417. That .417 SLG still lead the team in conference play. Dean beat up on crappy teams and got housed once he faced quality teams in the SEC. And this is the best we had.

No other player posted a conference average AVG, OBP, or SLG in a minimum of 100 at bats, except Sean Ochinko’s .371 OBP. Ochinko displayed almost no power in SEC play, but at least he got on base at a good clip. Other than that, every single player posted a below average rate stat. That’s so bad you almost have to be trying to suck that hard.

Check out LSU’s ranks in offensive categories in conference play (the raw figure is in parentheses, divide by 30 games for the per game rate, next to is the league leader’s number for some perspective):

AVG – 12th (254/311)
OBP – 12th (327/394)
SLG – 12th (360/512)
Runs – 12th (127/235)
Hits – 12th (254/337)
RBI – 12th (118/221)
HR – 11th (17/57)
TB – 12th (360/560)
PA – 12th (1131/1313)
BB – 10th (87/146)
SO – 4th (229/242)
SB – 4th (29/55)
CS – 1st (19/19)
GIDP – 1st (24/24)

I mean, wow. At least all of the small ball people should be happy because LSU is finally stealing bases. Of course, it is at the expense of any semblance of an effective offense. And how the hell can LSU lead the league in double plays given its paucity of baserunners?

I don’t even know how it is possible to lead the league in double plays while also finish dead last in baserunners by a wide margin. Especially considering one of the best ways to avoid a double play is to either hit a home run or to strike out. And LSU managed to strike out more than most of the teams, despite finishing dead last in plate appearances.

These numbers are nightmarish in their sheer ineptitude. Most of them fly in the face of logic. Bad offensive teams tend to not hit in many double plays because they don’t have a lot baserunners to double up. Teams that don’t get on base and strike out a ton, like LSU, usually have low GIDP totals due to their own offensive incompetence. But not our Tigers! They manage to actually excel at sucking.

There simply is no encouraging sign anywhere in those numbers. The team couldn’t get base hits. They couldn’t draw walks. They struck out a ton. They couldn’t run the bases well. When they did make contact, it was with little power. And they grounded into a ton of double plays.

There’s no nice way to say it: we suck.


This will be my one and only baseball post of the year. It appears that LSU's baseball season is over following a very weak end to the season, which saw us win only 2 of the final 9 conference games, I think. It looked like we might be going somewhere with a strong stretch mid-season, but we couldn't sustain it.

The team just couldn't hit. It remains to be seen if LSU baseball will manage to rebuild the baseball program from its current low or if we will be spending a lot of time near the bottom of the conference.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

How the West Was Fun

Just in case you're curious, the determinations made in my last post were made by analyzing a series of factors about various players. I looked mainly at players' past production, and then asked if there was any reliable reason to believe that production would drop or increase. I basically eliminated inexperienced players from consideration in deciding who the best players are. Sure, it is possible that Matt Stafford or Tim Tebow will be better QB's this year than Blake Mitchell (but not Andre Woodson, most likely), but I'm not going to go out on a limb and predict it.

I basically asked myself the question: if I was putting together a team this year, which Eastern Division QB, RB, and WR would I want. The answers were Woodson, Boyd, and Bennett. Not Tebow, Coker, and Harvin. You're free to disagree if you want.

Also in case you're curious, here's my results when thinking about the SEC West.

Quarterback: Tough call. The Mississippi QBs were terrible last year. Casey Dick really had pretty decent rate statistics if you exclude the abysmal LSU game, but he was only a part-time starter on a running team, and you really shouldn't exclude the abysmal LSU game. Flynn has never been a full-time starter. Wilson was only average last year, but may improve in his second year as a starter. Brandon Cox was also very average, but he had the excuse of playing very hurt most of the year. I'll take Cox in a squeaker over John Parker Wilson.

Running Back: Easy one. Darren McFadden of Arkansas. The second pick would probably be Felix Jones of Arkansas. It really is incredible how much better Arkansas's running game was than ever other team in the conference last year. It remains to be seen if it can be as good this year after losing so many starting offensive linemen. After that, there's a decent group of guys that I think are more or less even at this point, such as Keiland Williams, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Brad Lester.

Wide Receiver: Early Doucet, LSU. Actually, Marcus Monk of Arkansas may be the best receiver in the conference, but he's never had a QB who could consistently get him the ball, so it's really hard to evaluate. Knowing what Doucet can do, I'd take him over Monk. DJ Hall of Alabama would be 3rd.

I think Andre Woodson is the best QB in the conference, and it's not particularly close. I think Darren McFadden is the best RB in the conference, and it's not particularly close. It's a lot closer at Wide Receiver, and I think I'd take Doucet over Earl Bennett in a squeaker.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Why the East Will be Exciting

The competitiveness of the East is one of the reasons I'm really looking forward to football season this year. Want to have a short list of reasons why the East will be so much fun this year? Here is my list of the best skill position players by position:

Best Quarterback: Andre Woodson, Kentucky
Best Running Back: Corey Boyd, South Carolina
Best Wide Receiver: Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt

You heard me. None of the best skill position players come out of the tradition Big Three of Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia. And really, the only argument here is at Wide Receiver. Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell of Florida could have a claim on the #1 returning receiver spot, but Earl Bennett had more receiving yards and almost as many catches as the two of them combined last year.

What's more, the second best quarterback is probably Blake Mitchell of South Carolina. The second best running back is arguably Cason Jackson-Garrison of Vandy, but is more likely Lamarcus Coker of Tennessee.

That's why the East is going to be so fun this year. South Carolina is arguably the pre-season favorite to win the division. Kentucky, though not particularly good, is dangerous and capable of pulling an upset on anyone because Andre Woodson is so good. Even Vandy has a legitimate chance at a winning season and a bowl appearance if Chris Nickson develops as a quarterback.

So, happy watching this year.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Whimsical Thursday

It completely slipped my mind that it was Wednesday yesterday. Hence, you got no Whimsical Wednesday. Today will be Whimsical Thursday.

At the risk of eroding my alt-rock street cred, I will reveal that one of my favorite bands is The Cranberries. Yes, I really like a good pop song, and I think The Cranberries put together a rock melody with catchy lyrics as well as anyone.

It upset me for years that The Cranberries just unceremoniously disappeared from the scene. They faded away as '90s rock faded away, leaving me thinking they'd left something on the table. I simply always thought Delores O'Riordan had more good music in her.

Then I found out two days ago that Delores O'Riordan is coming out with a solo album. Unfortunately, my source of this news angered me by saying, "She has always sounded like Alanis Morissette and Lisa Loeb." I literally exclaimed at the television. First of all, Alanis Morissette and Lisa Loeb sound nothing like each other, and neither sounds like Delores O'Riordan. AM sounds angsty and screechy. LL has a pretty voice, but it is straight chick folk rock. DO'R has a distinct Irish brogue that comes through even in her singing, without sounding angsty or folky.

Here's a collection of videos:


For some reason, that video of Linger seems to have the video and music off-sync. I don't know if it's just for me though.

Dreams - my personal favorite of their songs.

Zombie - rockin' out a little, but honestly the video looks a little ridiculous now.

Ridiculous Thoughts - with Elijah Wood

Free to Decide

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How to read

Whenever I write predictions or analysis of future games, I am usually careful to couch it in terms of what could happen or what will probably happen. I do this intentionally because I am a firm believer in the concept that the future is not predetermined, especially in sports, and even if it is predetermined, the future is not knowable with certainty.

Sometimes, though, when I write a pessimistic post either here or somewhere else about what might happen, someone inevitably misreads it. They may read a statement to the effect of, "I think we have to be worried about our quarterback play because we don't know how Matt Flynn will handle the full-time starter job," and somehow misread this as, "Matt Flynn sucks. We are doomed."

They may read a statement to the effect of, "South Carolina is better than a lot of people think," and somehow misread this as, "South Carolina will beat us by 40."

Does everyone see the differences between the statements in those examples? In the first, I am presenting QB play as a potential problem while people interpret that to say that our quarterback will be terrible. It's the difference between might and will. In the second, I am saying that South Carolina is a good team, while people are reading into it that I think South Carolina is a much better team than us. My statement is about South Carolina. The interpretation is about both South Carolina and LSU. The leap is unwarranted.

It always amazes me when people don't get that. I can't tell you how many times I've said something to the effect of, "It wouldn't shock me if [some generally unexpected event occurred]," only to have to defend my statement against angry people who insist on arguing as if I said, "You are foolish if you don't think [some generally unexpected event] will definitely happen."

Is it because of the dumbing down of the American school system? Is it because of some kind of hyper-confrontational streak in Americans these days? Is it because my legal training emphasized precise wording that I unreasonably expect others to respond only to what I say rather than what they think I say?

What bothers me is that I am so careful about what I say when I make predictions or analyze teams and players. I deliberately avoid making definitive predictions about things like that, and I don't like when other analysts do it. Why am I expected to have a definitive answer to the question of who will win a key matchup? I especially dislike that this has become such an important and big part of morning preview shows like GameDay. Analysts substitute predictions for useful analysis, and trash talking for insight. I don't find it entertaining, and as a result I stopped watching GameDay entirely before last season started. I don't miss it one bit.

I guess this analyzing style has become so ubiquitous that fans don't know how to process something different, and that's why I get treated like Lee Corso sometimes.

So, I encourage you to read and hear only what is actually said, and when I say something that sits wrong with you, relax and read it again. I may have said something entirely different from what you think.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Being there

Up at the top of this blog, it says my writing will be in part about "life in enemy territory." I've done precious little writing on what it's like to be a Baton Rouge-area native and LSU fan in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

For the most part it's not bad.

I wear LSU gear sometimes, and I've never been hassled for it. Rarely does anyone give me a hard time. Of course, Bama has only beaten LSU in football once since I moved here in 2002. I imagine it could get worse if that turns around.

I can get Popeye's chicken now, though Cal's donuts still elude me. (Krispie Kreme is nasty crap if you ask me).

I think Bama fans tend to be better informed about football than is typical. I think they better know how the game is played and what is important. I doubt I'd talk to a lot of Bama fans who would mock the idea that a running back's poor pass blocking abilities might relegate him to the bench, like has happened to me in a discussion with an LSU fan.

I have talked about Bama fans sometimes being a little overconfident. That's not that common, though. Most Bama fans I know understand that the football team does not have the talent to be an elite team right now. If Bama fans have lofty expectations, it's not about where they are now. It's about where they should be, or will be in the future. They understand that while the team isn't that good right now, they fully expect to be an SEC and national contender in a few years.

I think that's ultimately what cost Mike Shula his job. While the loss to Mississippi State, an inferior team, certainly hurt, I think the biggest problem Shula had was that there seemed to be little prospect that he would bring Bama consistently into the upper reaches of the SEC. So, he left and they got someone else.

I'm not convinced that Bama will ever be one of the consistently strong teams in the SEC, but they expect it here. If they ever get there again, I wonder what it will be like to live here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Caught sleeping

I didn't update yesterday because I really had nothing worthwhile to talk about. This of course leads to the almost unsupportable proposition that on other days I have something "worthwhile" to talk about. But I digress.

We're expected to be a very good team this year. I agree with that expectation. While there is the prospect that certain things will fail to fall into place, leading to great disappointment, I think the most likely scenario is that we end up being a very good team. Yes, we could even challenge for the SEC and national championship (more on that in coming days/weeks).

We will have titanic home struggles against the likes of Auburn and Florida. We will also have a tough early-season matchup against Virginia Tech, which may be the most anticipated non-conference game in all of college football this year. We also play the new Saban-led Bama here in Tuscaloosa this year; a game that is sure to have lots of drama and attention.

If you're looking for a "lesser" game to trip us up, I have a couple for you:
  • September 22: Home game against South Carolina
  • October 13: Road game against Kentucky
Simply put, the SEC East is LOADED this year. I think all six teams in the East have a reasonable chance of going to a bowl, five have a reasonable chance of going to a New Year's Day bowl, and 4 have a reasonable chance of winning the division. This is a pretty stark departure for the East, which is usually top heavy, with Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee dominating USC, Vandy, and Kentucky.

This year will be different. Kentucky has the best quarterback in the conference. South Carolina has tremendous skill-position players, a lot of experience returning, and some real playmakers on defense.

Blake Mitchell, as established, was the 2nd most effective QB in the league on a per play basis. He loses his most talented receiving target in Sidney Rice, but returns Kenny McKinley, whose numbers last year were excellent in the #2 role. Also returning is arguably the 3rd best running back in the country in Corey Boyd. The defense will be solid with the return of Jasper Brinkley at linebacker and his twin brother Casper. Don't overlook the return of kicker/punter Ryan Succop, who didn't miss an extra point or a field goal from under 40 yards last year, all while punting for a 44 yard average without putting the ball in the end zone once.

These players return to a team that only had one bad loss in 2006, and played Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Auburn close.

This is a team that, if its offensive line is good, and if it can find a solid #2 receiving target, is a really good team. We really need to be looking at this game as a big matchup, especially if they manage to beat Georgia on September 8, which could be their coming-out party. If they win that game, I think they challenge for the division title. They will have to overcome a tough road schedule though, which includes games in Baton Rouge, Athens, Fayetteville, and Knoxville (and in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but I'm not counting that one).

The good thing is that game is sandwiched between games against Middle Tennessee State and Tulane. We won't be beaten up, and we won't be looking ahead. We should be up and ready for this game.

Andre Woodson makes Kentucky dangerous. Finding a running game would make Kentucky REALLY dangerous. I don't know if they can do it, but that Kentucky game sits between games against Auburn and Florida. If there is any game in which we will be either beaten up or looking ahead, it will be the Kentucky game. Put that game on the road against a dangerous QB, and there is the potential of trouble. I think we're a lot better than Kentucky, but if we aren't ready for them, they can beat us.

The good news is that Kentucky had a poor running game, a poor defense, and poor pass protection last year. That's pretty much every phase of the game other than passing and special teams. (Special teams weren't that great either). The weakness showed as LSU beat Kentucky 49-0 at home, but Woodson alone was good enough to lead Kentucky to a bowl game, and a bowl win. I don't think you can ever say a team with a QB that good doesn't have a chance, particularly given where Kentucky falls on the schedule.

So, definitely look forward to the big matchups, but don't forget about these two.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Some of the McKnight fallout

For those of you who don't follow recruiting, Louisiana produced an incredibly good crop of college football recruits last year. It was good at the top, and it was deep. LSU's recruiting class as a result was one of the best in the nation.

There was a downside though. The very best prospect in the state, and according to one publication the very best in the country, chose to sign with USC rather than LSU. He announced his decision on National Signing Day. His name is Joe McKnight.

Among the many (many) things this caused, it caused bad feelings between LSU supporters and the head coach of his high school football team. He has been accused of deliberately pushing the kid away from LSU. One variation on this story is that while he did not deliberately push the kid away from LSU, he didn't deliberately push him towards LSU either.

Personally, I don't think it's right for a high school football coach to "push" a kid anywhere, whether it's to the state school or away from the state school. It just isn't the right thing to do. It isn't right for a high school coach to pressure a kid to make such a big decision based on how it helps or hurts the coach.

Am I suggesting that a kid's high school coach should stay out of this process? No, I am not. The coach can feel free to give the kid the benefit of his years of experience in the business. He can give the kid the benefit of his knowledge of the coaches in question and the feedback of other kids who may have gone to the same institution. He can be a guide. He shouldn't be a svengali. If I may use yet another metaphor, he should not be a puppetmaster pulling the kid's strings.

Having a high school football coach run a kid's life into adulthood is even worse than when a parent does it, and parents shouldn't do it either.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Slow news day

I don't have much to discuss today, so I thought I'd go with a basic, "What worries me"-style post. What about the 2007 LSU football team worries me? If my worries have an overarching them, they are that we have inexperienced players at some key positions, and a key out-of-conference showdown against a good Virginia Tech team in week 2.

Here's a breakdown.

First, I'd have to say quarterback. If any LSU fan is being honest with himself, he has to acknowledge that there is the potential for QB to be a problem next year. After all, it is undeniable that no SEC team will be starting a QB in 2007 who took fewer meaningful snaps in 2006 than did Matt Flynn.

I'm not saying, "Matt Flynn is terrible," or, "Matt Flynn will struggle." I am saying that Matt Flynn could struggle. Yes, I remember the Peach Bowl against Miami. I am just not sure he'll repeat that level of performance.

The good news is that Flynn has had a lot of time in practice to hone his skills and to prepare. He could end up being a very good player and very effective at his position.

Second, I worry about the right side of the offensive line. We will have two new starters on that side. Will they make room for the runners? Will they protect the quarterback?We'll just have to see.

The fact is, too, that projected starters Lyle Hitt and Carnell Stewart are both converted from other positions. Hitt was a tight end and Stewart was a defensive lineman early in their college careers. I'm not sure that means anything, but it's an interesting fact.

Third, I worry about the wide receivers. In particular, I worry about the wide receivers other than Early Doucet, who I think is awesome. The only other receiver with any meaningful time is Brandon Lafell, and I'm just not sold on him yet. His most effective route last year was one that Matt Flynn may not be able to throw with regularity: the 40 yard bomb. He wasn't effective in traffic or on shorter routes.

The other returning receivers are Jared Mitchell and Chris Mitchell, who played only at the ends of blow-out games, and Ricky Dixon, who redshirted. None of those guys had any opportunity to show anything meaningful in games last year, but Jared Mitchell did have a crushing block once. It was impressive.

There is also JUCO transfer Demetrius Byrd. Some say he's really good and will be our #2 receiver next year, but he hasn't set foot on the field against SEC competition yet.

After that, we have some highly-touted true freshmen coming in: Terrance Tolliver, Ron Brooks, and John Williams. Brooks and/or Williams may be moved to defensive back. Either way, it is hard to rely on true freshmen at the wide receiver position. Any of these guys could end up great, but it isn't often that a true freshman wide receiver really makes an impact. The last one at LSU was Michael Clayton.

It certainly helps that Doucet is such a good short-yardage and red zone receiver due to his ability to go get a "jump ball". I've never seen a receiver at LSU who was so good at leaving his feet to go up and get a ball.

What does it all mean? Well, I think it's entirely possible, or even likely, that one, two, or all of these worries will ultimately prove unwarranted. However, the worst case scenario is that because of weakness at the QB, WR, and OL positions, we will have an anemic passing game and ultimately a one-dimensional team. It is also possible that this is a problem that will plague us early, but eventually come around late, kind of like our running game last year.

With Virginia Tech sitting there in week 2, that could be very worrisome.

My question is this: If, as many people expect, LSU is beating Mississippi State soundly in the first week, when should we remove the starters?*

Well, I think other than the positions mentioned, we can remove the starters at a normal time. However, I think Flynn, the receivers, and the offensive line need to have as much time as possible to gel in preparation for week 2. What's more, we shouldn't close the playbook with a big lead. It is too important for the next week.

* Yes, I know this sounds like I am looking past Mississippi State. I certainly think it is possible that Mississippi State will play us tough or even beat us. However, objectively, we have to realize that Mississippi State was terrible last year, and that there is little reason to believe they'll be any better this year.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

ROCK! Whimsical Wednesday

The first of many embeds of Sifl & Olly.

I loved Sifl & Olly.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Two teams, two coaches, similar results

Getting back to the "underachiever" meme, the more I think about it, the more I see great similarities between the 2004 and 2006 LSU football teams.
  • Both were immensely talented. The 2004 teams probably had a more talented secondary and defensive line, but the 2006 team had a more polished offense and better linebackers.
  • Both had very unfavorable road schedules. The 2004 team played Auburn on the road early, Georgia and Florida in mid-season, and Arkansas late.
  • Both teams lost close defensive struggles to Auburn in games with questionable officiating at critical times. In 2004, Ronnie Prude was called for a penalty on a missed Auburn extra point, giving Auburn a second chance in the waning seconds. Auburn ended up winning by one point, and no other person in the history of football has been called for the particular penalty called on Prude, a personal foul for jumping and landing on his own player. In 2006, Jessie Daniels was called for pass interference, negating a critical interception on a pass that never reached the receiver while no call was made on an Auburn defensive back who interfered with Early Doucet on a fourth down pass that also did not reach the receiver.
  • Both teams were convincingly defeated by an Eastern Division opponent in a poorly played game in which the team did not really show up to play. In 2004, we lost to Georgia 45-16. In 2006, we lost to Florida 23-10.
  • Both teams ended the season strong with 6 straight regular season wins, but got one of those wins in a late come-from-behind win over a lesser opponent. In 2004, we needed late scores to beat Troy 24-20. In 2006, we needed a late touchdown and overtime to beat Ole Miss.
The primary differences between the two team?
  • The 2004 team was coached by Nick Saban, who had one eye looking to the NFL, while the 2006 team was coached by Les Miles.
  • The 2006 team dominated their bowl game against Notre Dame while the 2004 team struggled in the Cap One against Iowa before finally losing on a last-second Hail Mary, despite a heroic comeback orchestrated by Jamarcus Russell. JR, incidentally, was relegated to 3rd string before the bowl game, and only played because Marcus Randall and Matt Flynn were so ineffective.
The other difference between the two teams is that following the two seasons, Nick Saban was rewarded with a fat NFL contract following his 2004 season while Les Miles was accused of being an underachiever following his 2006 season.

Which of course begs the question, why is Les Miles being treated so much differently than Les Miles over similar seasons? Well, for one, Saban gets credit for having the 2003 national championship team. Rightly so. Miles and his supporters can't respond to criticism by saying, "I won that national championship, didn't I?"

That's definitely one explanation, but I think there is another factor feeding this media chatter. I think that the sports media is trying to create the story, and the story is that Nick Saban is trying to overtake the program he himself was so instrumental in developing. The drama improves if you get people thinking that Les Miles has not been a good steward of that program.

This is not unusual. In theory, media reports stories to the public according to what the public wants. In actuality, the media is quite adept at engineering the public's attitudes and interests. In general, a self-interested media will then engineer the public's perception in order to maximize its own sales or viewership. This is hardly limited to sports media, as Fox News has virtually made this into a science.

In sports, you see it on ESPN all the time. Ever notice that SportsCenter's coverage of hockey has gone down precipitously since ESPN stopped broadcasting NHL games? Ever notice the SportsCenter's coverage of NASCAR has increased substantially since ESPN got a NASCAR broadcast contract? Did you notice how much SportsCenter hyped the Danica Patrick story when ESPN an IRL contract? ESPN knows that SportsCenter doesn't just report sports news; it creates sports buzz, and ESPN takes advantage of that to promote the stories that help ESPN make more money.

I think there is an element of that same principle at work here. The Finebaums and Mandels of the world know that this sort of provocation increase readership and listenership by focusing the attention on them. They take advantage of that.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Underachiever tag

The meme that "LSU has underachieved with Miles as the head coach" is really starting to gain currency. Stewart Mandel recently wrote on it, as had Paul Finebaum.

So, in a sense, Les Miles' moment of triumph in having so many of his players considered good enough to draft so high has become a double-edged sword. "Why couldn't you do better than 22-4 with all that great talent, Les?"

The more insulting way to put it is, "Les Miles has won with Nick Saban's players." And yes, Les Miles was definitely handed the keys to a race car when he was hired as LSU's head coach after the 2004 season, but let's look at it a little closer.

First, let's examine the 2004 season, the year after we won the championship. The starting lineup on defense included two future first round picks in Marcus Spears and Laron Landry. It had two All-American cornerbacks in Corey Webster and Travis Daniels, who would be drafted in the 2nd and 4th rounds, respectively. The other starting safety was Jessie Daniels, who was part of the 2005 and 2006 teams. It had Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten at defensive tackle, both who would be middle-round draft picks. Glenn Dorsey was their primary backup, and he will likely be a high first round pick next year. Melvin Oliver was the other starting DE, and he managed to make an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent. The linebacking corp included current starter Ali Highsmith, along with E.J. Kuale, Ken Hollis, and Cameron Vaughn. The linebacking corp may not have been great

That defense was stacked. While the linebacking corp may have been only OK, the defensive line and the secondary was filled with NFL talent.

The offense had Jamarcus Russell battling with Marcus Randall for the QB spot. The wide receivers were Skyler Green, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Bennie Brazell, Early Doucet, and Xavier Carter. All but Carter will end up being drafted, and Carter will end up in the Olympics (as did Brazell). Alley Broussard averaged 6 yards per carry, and he started at running back over Joe Addai, who was a first round pick. The offensive line included NFLer Andrew Whitworth. There was NFL talent all over the offense as well.

That team lost three games, including an embarrassing 45-16 loss to Georgia in mid-season, and failed to make the SEC Championship Game. This team was entirely "Saban's talent", and was at least arguably more talented than subsequent teams. Yet, when people say, "Les Miles is underachieving with Saban's talent", the disappointing 2004 season is ignored.

That was Saban's last season. He would leave for Miami, and we would hire Les Miles. Now let's look at what happened next.

Miles took over a team with very high expectations. Once again, the talent level was very high. We lost the great cornerbacks and Marcus Spears, but not a lot more, and the quarterback situation stabilized.


The first blow was the loss of Alley Broussard, who was coming off a monster 2004 season in which he averaged 6 yards per carry. Tiger Nation hoped he'd challenge for the Heisman Trophy in 2005. Instead, he blew out his knee in Fall practice and did not play a down.

The second blow was Hurricane Katrina, which disrupted preparations, disrupted the schedule, and wore out the players to the point that the team lost an average of 7 pounds per person before the ill-fated game with Tennessee. We lost that game after we wore down in the 4th quarter. It was the most forgivable loss by any top team all season.

We then played 11 straight weeks, a streak began, mind you, with a team that was not in proper physical condition. We played strong, but ended the regular season on a weak note with a 19-17 victory over a middling Arkansas team. The team was clearly worn down, and the next week in the SECCG it showed, with a big loss to Georgia again. We then stomped Miami in the Peach Bowl.

That 2005 team did not underachieve. Under the circumstances, that was one of the most accomplished teams in LSU history, under the direction of Les Miles.

The 2006 season was a little more conventional. We had a very tough road schedule against 4 good teams and we won two of them.

People are saying that we were immensely talented last season, and that our 2-loss record represented an underachievement. And maybe they have a point. We really should have beaten Auburn, and we should not have let Alabama and Ole Miss play us so closely.

However, let's look at that talent gap. Those who say there was a talent gap are defining "talent" as "first round NFL draft picks." This is convenient for them because it fits the meme. However, you get a more complex picture if you look a little deeper.

LSU had four first round picks, but only one other draft pick in the other six rounds. Florida had two first round draft picks, and 9 total draft picks, and had two others who could have been drafted in Earl Everette and Chris Leak. Tennessee also had two other first round draft picks, and seven drafted overall. Auburn had one first rounder, and five drafted overall. Arkansas had three picked on the first day, and four drafted overall. And oh yeah, they had Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

We played those four teams ON THE ROAD. If there was a talent gap, it wasn't a particularly big one. And we really should have beaten Auburn. I think if that team had played Auburn 10 times, we would have won 8. We were better, and played better, but it didn't show on the scoreboard.

Credit Auburn and credit Tuberville, but I don't think it means we underachieved. We just didn't get the breaks you need to beat a talented team on the road.

So anyway, I think the argument that we underachieved is bunk, but it's an argument that is gaining a lot of currency. I think the only way to defeat it is to have a championship season, and we have a real shot at it again this year.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

6th commitment

Here is LSU's sixth commitment for the 2008 signing class. He is Rocky Duplessis, a SS/LB type from Belle Chasse.

Word is that Les Miles went to see him at his school, and offered a scholarship. Rocky apparently accepted on the spot.

Looking at him, he looks like a mean SOB. He has flown very low under the radar so far in recruiting however. Once the publications start putting out there ratings, he is likely to be a 3-star or a 2-star, because there has been very little buzz about him.

As a result, there has been an inevitable chorus of "wasted scholarship".

The people who say that are utter fools. First, to think this, you must believe that Scout and Rivals know more about the recruiting landscape than the LSU staff. While that may be true nationally, I seriously doubt that's true within our major recruiting regions.

Miles & Company have some idea of what's out there and what we have realistic chances of getting. While we have a lot of interest from out of state prospects, there aren't really many Louisiana safeties this year burning up the message boards. For all we know, Duplessis may be the best in the state.

Rivals and Scout aren't the be-all, end-all of judging a recruit. Even though I really like those sights and find them very helpful, you can't accept what they say as Biblical truth. I think even the people who run those sights would agree with that if you caught them being honest. You need only look at the results of the NFL draft held one week ago to know that 2-star and 3-star players sometimes become great.

Second, you have to like his immediate commitment and the stories that he has been a fan all his life and was waiting for this offer and this offer only. Even if he is not among the best athletes we sign next year (which I do not know to be true), he seems like a kid who really wants to be there, and like he would be happy taking a special teams and backup role his entire career.

While every team needs great athletes and playmakers, teams also need quality kids who love the program are willing to be role-players. I don't know if Duplessis is limited like that, but if he is, so what?

Third, it really is helpful to maintain this as a "Louisiana team". This is supposedly a down year for recruiting, and the temptation is there to go out of the state even more as a result. This would be a mistake. While we should certainly look out of state to an extent (even a rather large extent), LSU needs to maintain a good relationship with Louisiana high school coaches and fans.

There will come a time when LSU will have some lean years. When that happens, the out-of-state well will dry up. We'll no longer be able to pull kids from out of state who have offers from the Florida States, Oklahomas, and Texases of the world. When that happens, we will have to rely on the Louisiana kids to pull us out of the slump, the way Dinardo go Kevin Faulk and Saban pulled in Clayton and Spears, all of whom could have gone to national powerhouses.

When the lean years come, if we have sold Louisiana kids and high school coaches down the river, they will turn around and sell us down the river. If we simply say, "Louisiana is no good this year, and we have to look out of state for everything," we risk becoming like the U of Miami, which has been a team of mercenaries with little or not organic community support. (Just look at their attendance numbers, even in their National Championship years). There was a time when LSU looked primarily out of state for various reasons. As a result, Louisiana high schools and coaches lost all loyalty to LSU, particularly in the New Orleans region. For most of a decade, LSU couldn't get the best recruits out of New Orleans. It took years to undo that.

So, no, I don't think this is a "wasted scholarship". I welcome Rocky Duplessis to the fold with open arms.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Finebaum's Hatchet Job

Short post today. As many of you may have seen, Paul Finebaum penned a hatchet job against Les Miles and LSU, something he is becoming quite adept at doing.

Perhaps "adept" is not the right word, because it implies a high level of competence. I think the word I'm looking for in place of adept is "prolific". Anyway, all you need to know about this attempted assassination to know how flat it falls is this sentence:

It's so comical that I honestly feel sorry for LSU fans.

Oh really? The situation in LSU's football program is so comical that you "feel sorry" for us? Miles is 22-4 over two years, a two-year record Nick Saban matched exactly one time at LSU, even when he was coaching "Nick Saban talent". Miles did it in the face of a certain hurricane in 2006, the loss of his #1 running back to injury before the season started, and a hellish road schedule in 2007.

Then Les Miles put together the most heralded recruiting class in LSU history.

I realize one thing here, and it's something I've discussed before. Finebaum is deliberately being an agent prococateur and is writing simply to draw attention to himself. He doesn't care if it's negative attention he's getting. He knows that people who hate you are just as likely to read your columns and listen to your radio show as people who love you. It's good marketing.

He crossed the line from being a simple agent provocateur to being a pure yellow journalist, however. And his statement that he pities us is laughable. News flash: LSU is a top 5 program in the country. Bama is not a top 5 program in the SEC.

I'm going to do my part to turn that around. I'm taking 100.5 off of my radio presets. I won't listen to it at all anymore. And yes, I have in the past listened to Finebaum as well as other programs on that station, including the morning show with Jay Barker, Al del Greco, and whoever is the radio professional on that show. Not anymore. That which is associated with this level of yellow journalism must not be patronized.

Also, I won't read those newspapers which publish his columns.

I encourage others to do the same. Ignore him. Ignore his broadcasts. Ignore his colleagues. Don't discuss his opinions further. Don't ever give him any more attention whatsoever.

And no, I'm not linking the article.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Big Media on the Draft

I was sitting here puttering around on the internet thinking, "I don't have anything I particularly want to write about today." News is slow as far as LSU football goes, and I don't want to write about the Troy Giddens/Joseph Barksdale incident. Enough has been said about that already, and frankly I see nothing really to analyze or discuss about it. While I have some ideas kicking around for a few columns that don't have any immediate import, nothing really jumped out at me today.

Then I ran into this. It's CNNSI's "Photo Gallery" wherein they take a topic, give it very little substance, but beef it up by posting it accompanied by very large pictures. It's like the print version of a musical montage. Very little substance, but it has a nice beat and you can dance to it.

Anyway, this "Photo Gallery" lists the Top 10 NFL Draft Steals for 2007. It helps me crystallize something I've been trying to articulate about "Draft Grades" and "Draft Analysis" in the media for a while. That thing I've been trying to say is that they do not mean much because they are heavily weighted towards rewarding teams that draft players from big schools that the reporters have seen on television. Here are the top 10 draft steals, in order:
  1. Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame (late first round)
  2. Ryan Kalil, C, USC (late second round)
  3. Antonio Pittman, RB, Ohio St. (4th round)
  4. Steve Breaston, WR, Michigan (5th round)
  5. Dallas Sartz, LB, USC (5th round)
  6. Tarrell Brown, CB, Texas (5th round)
  7. Derek Landri, DT, Notre Dame (5th round)
  8. Adam Koets, OT, Oregon State (6th round)
  9. Mason Crosby, K, Colorado (6th round)
  10. David Irons, CB, Auburn (6th round)
Notice anything? Each of these players is from a big school. All but two are from schools that get on television A LOT, and one of those got hyped as the best kicker in college for most of his career. Only Adam Koets would qualify as even a little bit of a dark horse, and he played in the Pac-10.

CNNSI thinks, then, that the big "steals" of the draft almost uniformly came from schools that just so happen to get on television frequently. I wonder if the Top 10 Draft Steals of 2006 published in May of last year included Marques Colston from Hofstra?

I have nothing against any of these players personally, and there is certainly a chance that any of these guys will emerge as a major player in the NFL. And really, when you think about it, if you're a typical football fan not privy to scouting reports, combine reports, etc., there's a certain amount of decent logic in using as your measuring stick in evaluating talent, "Was he productive against top level competition?"

However, in an NFL where players routinely excel from unheralded programs and players from big schools often flop, don't even pretend an analysis that is heavily biased in favor of players from big programs is even remotely definitive.

To show you how far this goes, consider the case of Tarrell Brown, the 5th biggest steal of the draft. He was a cornerback at Texas, a school which had seven players drafted. In particular, two cornerbacks, one safety, and two defensive ends were drafted. That's 5 of the 6 most important positions on the field for defending against the pass. You have your two corners, one of your safeties, and both of your primary outside pass rushers going to the NFL. Three of them were first-day picks including two in the first round.

Wow, Texas's pass defense must have been excellent in 2006 to have had that much talent on the field. Think again. Texas's vaunted pass defense, which put so many players into the NFL, was tenth in the Big 12 in yards per game.

"OK", you say, "but Texas won a lot of games, and were undoubtedly ahead by large margins, forcing opponents to pass more, thereby giving up more yards."

Good try. They were also tenth in yards per attempt. Out of 12. Texas's pass defense compared to the rest of the Big 12 was poor. Despite this, the third member of the Texas secondary to be drafted gets labeled one of the Top Ten Biggest Draft Steals of 2007? How can this be explained other than by basic big-school bias?